From New York to countries around the world, United Nations Federal Credit Union is steeped in a global pursuit to carry out its ongoing mission of charitable giving.
One of its more visible campaigns is its role in the “Say NO – UNiTE Campaign to End Violence Against Women.” Launched in 2009 by the United Nations Development Fund for Women or UN Women, has a number of advocacy efforts including volunteering at local shelters, calling for legislation or donating funds towards program that protect women and girls from violence.
More than five million signed on to a global call to make ending violence against women a top priority worldwide, according to UN Women. Heads of states and ministers from 73 governments and nearly 700 parliamentarians have added their names to the action call. Actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman is the spokesperson of Say NO – UNiTE.
The $3.5 billion UNFCU in Long Island, N.Y., is a partner of UN Women and raised nearly $11,000 through a 2010 online fundraiser towards the campaign, which included a $3,000 match from the credit union. A similar fundraising event was scheduled to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women that ran from Nov. 23 to Dec. 10.
Debra Da Costa, vice president of marketing at UNFCU, along with several other senior executives and board members traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in October to visit a safe house for women and girls. Seventy-two women and 44 children live in the house.
“Safe houses are a sanctuary for young girls and women who have been victims of sexual violence,” Da Costa said. “They usually have had children as a result of these attacks.”
According to Say NO campaign data, between 15% to 76% of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime. Among women ages 15 to 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.
Da Costa said the credit union continues to encourage members to donate to the cause and many of them were a part of the five million signature pledge to end violence against women. She emphasized that the smallest donations can make a difference.
“We sometimes forget that you don’t have to donate $5,000 or $10,000. You can give $1 or $3. That’s a cup of Starbucks coffee you do without for day,” Da Costa said.
The Say NO campaign’s reach has certainly extended across the world. In Brazil, members of trade unions demanded 24-hour access to trained police to report gender-based violence. In Burundi, the city’s jogging clubs distributed information materials in the capital Bujumbura, and in Baguio City, Philippines, a men’s summit brought together men from different walks of life to strategize on ways to end domestic violence.
Men were also involved in an effort in Kenya where a group, Men for Gender Equality Now, traveled across the country to mobilize their communities against discrimination.
Here in the U.S., Amnesty International USA, Family Violence Prevention Fund and
Women Thrive, along with thousands of activists, are gathering signatures in support of the International Violence against Women Act, according to the campaign. Girl Scouts from around the world are also involved through various educational activities.
Da Costa said UNFCU’s charitable goals are in line with the United Nation’s eight Millennium Development Goals: to end hunger, universal education, gender equity, children’s health, maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability and global partnership.
In 2008, UNFCU donated $20,000 to the Sekolo Projects Inc., a secondary school teacher training project to provide HIV prevention, education, physical care and psychosocial support for young people in Namibia.
The donation was earmarked to assist Sekolo's transition to a Namibian-led organization, establishing and training local management and expanding its Community Based Organization Assistance Fund, which works with community organizations to provide cost effective solutions to HIV/AIDS related issues at the community level.
The credit union is also involved in the Kilimanjaro Initiative, started by a UNFCU staffer to raise money and awareness on safety and crime issues in Nairobi by providing youth here with sport activity alternatives and a challenge to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
“Through all of our partnerships, it’s great to donate money and raise funds but we also partner in other ways,” Da Costa said. “We are on boards or we lend a hand at events. It’s always been an atmosphere of partnership.”